A Lesson Before Dying
In "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines, Mr. Grant Wiggins' life starts off as being the center of the story. He was planning to leave his hometown, but is talked into staying and teaching Jefferson. His goal was to make Jefferson into a "man", however, he himself became more of one as a result. Mr. Wiggins improved as a person in this book, and this helped him form better relationships with other people. At the start of the book, Mr. Wiggins more or less hated Jefferson, but after a while he became his friend and probably the only person Jefferson felt he could trust. The turning point in their relationship was the one visit in which Jefferson told Mr. Wiggins that he wanted a gallon of ice cream, and that he never had enough ice cream in his whole life. At that point Jefferson confided something in Mr. Wiggins, something that he rarely did. "I saw a slight smile come to his face, and it was not a bitter smile. Not bitter at all"; this is the first instance in which Jefferson breaks his somber barrier and shows emotions. At that point he became a "man". As far as the story tells, he never showed any sort of emotion before the shooting or after it, until that point. A "pig"can't show emotions, but a man can. There is the epiphany of the story. Mr. Wiggins realizes that the purpose of life is to help make the world a better place, and at that time he no longer minds visiting Jefferson and begins becoming his friend. Mr. Wiggins' relationship with his Aunt declined in this story, although it was never very strong. His Aunt treated him very poorly and expected him to always show obedience. She also wanted him to be manly. His Aunt was not a very nice person, and would only show kindness towards people who shared many of her views. Mr. Wiggins feels, and rightly so, that several white men try to mock or make a fool of him throughout the story. This was a time of racial discrimination with much bigotry, so if the story had taken place in the present, it would have been much different. In fact, there probably would not even have been a book because in modern times, an honest and just jury would have found him innocent due to the lack of evidence. It wasn't really clear what Mr. Wiggins' financial situation was, but he could not have been too well off because he needed to borrow money to purchase a radio for Jefferson. His comment about how he was treated at the Rainbow Cafe also seemed to indicate that he did not have much money: "When I was broke, I could always get a meal and pay later, and the same went for the bar." As the book progresses he probably had even less money as he was buying the radio, comic books, and other items for Jefferson. Mr. Wiggins seemed to be well respected by the community, and he felt superior to other African Americans because he was far more educated than they were. That makes Mr. Wiggins guilty of not practicing what he preaches, although Jefferson probably made it clearer to him that even the less intelligent people are still humans with feelings. At the start of the book, Mr. Wiggins did not understand this. He went to visit Jefferson because Miss Emma and his Aunt more or less forced him to do it. He really had no motivation except that he would be shunned by his Aunt if he did not comply. The whole process of Mr. Wiggins' development and the plot of this story both spawn from the crimes of two characters with no other relevance to the story. After the police found Jefferson at the liquor store with the dead bodies all around him, he was of course taken prisoner. The times being what they were, his trial was not conducted fairly and Jefferson, the black man, was convicted of the crime. Miss Emma, his godmother was afraid that he would die a " hog" and have lived a meaningless life. She wanted him "Not to crawl to the white man, but to get up and walk to him at the end." When Mr. Wiggins visited Jefferson in prison, he was not very concerned about him and just wanted the time to pass quickly. After a while, he began to think of what it would feel like to be a dead man, and what he could do to help Jefferson. This was the greatest achievement Mr. Wiggins accomplished in the entire book. He managed to have pity for Jefferson without having empathy. After the point in which he discussed the ice cream and the radio with Jefferson, and Jefferson admitted for the first time that he was more than a "hog', Mr. Wiggins truly cared. Mr. Wiggins developed greatly during the course of this story, along with other main characters. For example, Vivian met new people and increased the quality of her relationship with Mr. Wiggins, Miss Emma finally got to see someone stand up for her, Tante Lou learned that she had a decent nephew after all, and Jefferson got off his " four" legs and stood erect.